The Introvert Points System
When I was a little kid, my favorite thing to do was sit in my room and color and draw and write. As an adult, I can’t say much has changed.
My ideal weekend involves sleeping in, hanging out with my husband (also an introvert with anxiety issues), watching movies, writing, blogging, painting, crafting and only talking to people online.
I used to go out with friends every weekend as a college student but that became exhausting pretty quickly. Even then, at my most social, I still would get LOOKS from friends if I said I wanted to stay in on any given Saturday. Even at my most social, I couldn’t keep up.
A lot of people believe social media is related to the social anxiety a lot of people seem to have now. I think people are just being open about it, as they should be. But when most people on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are only showing the sides of themselves they want to show in public, feeling less than can come easily and naturally.
As a graphic designer, my day-to-day is pretty routine: I sit at a desk almost all day and make websites, web and print graphics look good. But on the days I have a client meeting, I get a nervous stomach. This is occasionally for clients I’ve met before but always for clients I’m just meeting for the first time.
I take anxiety medication to help battle this nervousness and have for about a year. Sometimes the pills work. Sometimes they don’t. But before I started the pills, things were getting really bad.
There was one meeting in particular where I had to excuse myself for fear I may vomit, have a heart attack or stop breathing. I even started having panic attacks during staff meetings, not even with clients present.
The physical manifestations of anxiety are, I promise you, very real. Everyone I know who has anxiety issues is well aware that the thoughts they have during a panic attack are nonsensical. That’s why telling someone who is having a panic attack to “calm down” or “just be optimistic” is extremely unhelpful.
When I recently mentioned feeling a little lonely and missing friends but not having the energy or will to go hang out with people, one very extroverted friend told me, “Well, it’s your own fault, you know.” Thanks friend.
My Points System
After a quiet weekend at home, I start my week on a Monday morning with 10 points. A workday without any client meetings takes up, let’s say, 2–3 points. I talk with my co-workers but the routine makes it easy. A client meeting takes up a good 5 points, especially if it runs long or I find them intimidating for some reason. Grocery shopping after work takes up a few more points. When I get home, I’m usually out of points.
I then start Tuesday with 8 or 9 points and Wednesday with 7 or 8 points. As the week progresses, I can feel my points draining.
By the time I get to the weekend, I’m out. I’m done. If I’ve made plans on a Saturday, I have to be very strategic about what I do the evening before and day after so I don’t feeling panicked. When major plans are made the day before an event happens, the feeling of dread I have is considerable.
When I have used up all my points during the week and then have major plans on the weekend, I’m usually exhausted or need to take frequent alone breaks, just to take some deep breaths. Two examples:
- Christmas can get pretty loud at my family’s house because there are quite a few of us and several of us are loud talkers. With different pockets of chatter happening around me, being able to take a break in the guest room was the most pleasant relief.
- I hate public speaking, but it’s kind of one of those things you gotta do when you’re doing a book launch. My debut novel came out February 2015 and the following month, I held an event in Charlottetown at the library on a Saturday after doing a full week of my 9–5 work week. Quite a few people were there. We brought snacks and I did a talk and a reading and did a Q&A session. I had to be “on.” I had to be funny and charming and talk about my book in front of people—something that used to make me feel weird and vulnerable. After the event was over, I could not get out of my jeans and into my bed fast enough. I slept like I hadn’t slept in a month. It was wonderful.
The Points System has been helpful for me in understanding my limits and knowing when I need to slow down and also knowing when I should just take a deep breath and… have dinner with friends. Go to an outdoor event with lots of people around.
It doesn’t hurt that I have way too many hobbies and wish I could devote all of my time to them. Writing makes me happy. Painting makes me happy. Crafting makes me happy. Playing The Sims in my pajamas and watching five episodes of The Golden Girls in a row makes me happy.
For those of you who are naturally extroverted or don’t suffer from anxiety, I hope the points system will help you better understand when you want to hang out with a friend and they can’t, even though they don’t seem to have a reason. They probably don’t hate you. They probably just ran out of points and they need to re-generate.
Schedule your shit ahead of time so they can prepare.
This post was originally posted by me on Medium in April of 2016.